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Virology. 2006 May 10;348(2):297-308. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

Vaccination of ducks with a whole-cell vaccine expressing duck hepatitis B virus core antigen elicits antiviral immune responses that enable rapid resolution of de novo infection.

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School of Molecular and Biomedical Science, The University of Adelaide, Australia.


As a first step in developing immuno-therapeutic vaccines for patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection, we examined the ability of a whole-cell vaccine, expressing the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) core antigen (DHBcAg), to target infected cells leading to the resolution of de novo DHBV infections. Three separate experiments were performed. In each experiment, ducks were vaccinated at 7 and 14 days of age with primary duck embryonic fibroblasts (PDEF) that had been transfected 48 h earlier with plasmid DNA expressing DHBcAg with and without the addition of anti-DHBcAg (anti-DHBc) antibodies. Control ducks were injected with either 0.7% NaCl or non-transfected PDEF. The ducks were then challenged at 18 days of age by intravenous inoculation with DHBV (5 x 10(8) viral genome equivalents). Liver biopsies obtained on day 4 post-challenge demonstrated that vaccination did not prevent infection of the liver as similar numbers of infected hepatocytes were detected in all vaccinated and control ducks. However, analysis of liver tissue obtained 9 or more days post-challenge revealed that 9 out of 11 of the PDEF-DHBcAg vaccinated ducks and 8 out of 11 ducks vaccinated with PDEF-DHBcAg plus anti-DHBc antibodies had rapidly resolved the DHBV infection with clearance of infected cells. In contrast, 10 out of 11 of the control unvaccinated ducks developed chronic DHBV infection. In conclusion, vaccination of ducks with a whole-cell PDEF vaccine expressing DHBcAg elicited immune responses that induced a rapid resolution of DHBV infection. The results establish that chronic infection can be prevented via the vaccine-mediated induction of a core-antigen-specific immune response.

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